(WILKES-BARRE) During a meeting with Luzerne County Commissioners to discuss concerns about reassessment, Senator Lisa Baker encouraged officials to make sure the assessment appeals process is open to the public.
“People are concerned about the fairness and validity of the entire reassessment process,” she said. “Hearing appeals in a secretive process is at odds with open government laws and further weakens citizens’ confidence in government.”
In a letter she delivered at the meeting, Baker strongly disagreed with Appeals Board Chairman Andrew Shiner’s position that assessment votes do not have to be taken in public.
“To my knowledge, there is nothing in law that exempts assessment appeals boards from Sunshine, and nothing that allows assessment law to supersede open meeting requirements,” she said.
She added that failure to publicly advertise meetings also appears to violate Sunshine requirements.
Baker asserted that if the spirit of the Sunshine Law is observed, any votes on appeals should be taken publicly, and the reasons supporting each decision should be recorded and available for public review.
She concluded by saying, “No single step will remove the conflict and contention from the reassessment process entirely. But a process that is conducted openly and in compliance with state law is preferable to what exists in Luzerne County today.”
Contact: Jennifer H. Wilson